While I was at Imaginarium this weekend, I caught bits and pieces of information about David Weingart being fired from Worldcon.
I debated whether or not to shine more light and attention on this. In part, I was concerned because Dave’s posts included a screen shot and information that was used by some to track down the victim, which led to threats and harassment against said victim. It sounds like this was at least in part from followers of Theodore Beale. I don’t believe this was what Dave intended, but it happened. Dave has since pulled that screenshot and his posts.
As it’s been discussed and debated publicly, I decided to try to pull together what information I could.
- My Side of the Story: A livejournal post (now private) from David Weingart, dated 10/5. Dave talks about being fired from music programming at Worldcon.
- Another individual on staff was uncomfortable with Dave for reasons unknown and had, a year or two back, asked him not to interact with her.
- Dave and Worldcon worked out an arrangement where he would volunteer, but would respect certain boundaries and avoid contacting or interacting with her.
- Dave posted a lighthearted comment on a Worldcon staff chat board.
- He realized he’d responded right after a comment from the aforementioned individual.
- Worldcon contacted him about this violation of their arrangement, and suggested new boundaries that would among other things restrict Dave from all-staff chats.
- Dave refused these new restrictions, and was then fired.
- A Followup Request: Weingart wrote another post (now private) on 10/7, saying, “There’s one thing that I don’t like about some of what I’m hearing though. People are rushing to judge or speculate on [name redacted]’s mental health. Please don’t … Please, please, PLEASE do not speculate on her mental state and descend to name-calling (and if you must, please do not do it on my account). Please don’t be unkind to someone who is (as far as I can tell) hurting.”
- Worldcon 75’s Public Statement: On 10/8, Worldcon posted a relatively brief statement (now deleted). “David Weingart was recently dismissed from Worldcon 75 Staff for failing to abide by an agreement he had made to not interact with another staff member who reported feeling stalked by him in the past. The agreement had allowed both valued staff members to work on Worldcon 75 for several months. Once broken, David refused to recommit to a course of action intended to prevent problematic interactions from happening again, and refused to accept responsibility for his actions or impact.” They also offered an apology to the other staffer, who was now being harassed and threatened as a result of the public discussion.
- Worldcon Apologizes: On 10/11, Worldcon posted an apology to both Weingart and the victim. “Worldcon 75 would like to apologise for the grave mishandling of a personnel issue over the past few weeks, in particular regarding communication, the delays in our responses, and for our role in escalating the situation. Specifically, we would like to apologise to both our current and former staffers, who are now experiencing harassment from various parties. We would also like to apologise to our staff and to the Worldcon community at large for the lack of transparency in how this issue was handled and for our missteps in communication about it.” They also spelled out steps they would be taken to improve things moving forward, and solicited input and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Other Details: There was other discussion online, including claims and counterclaims about things like whether or not this was the first time Weingart had posted on that board, how many times he responded to the other individual’s comment, and more. Short version — I simply don’t know all the facts.
As this was playing out, there was a lot of anger on all sides. Some were furious that Weingart — a good person and hard worker — was being punished. There was talk about harassment policies being misused or abused as a tool to carry out personal vendettas.
At the same time, we had the anger and frustration that any time a convention actually enforces their harassment policy, they’re immediately subjected to public scrutiny and forced to defend and justify every minuscule piece of evidence that went into their decision. Something we generally don’t ask or expect when cons enforce other aspects of their policies.
I don’t know all that happened. But, as usual, I do have some thoughts…
The Beale Effect: I’m bemused at how effectively Theodore Beale managed to unite Worldcon and Weingart, both of whom came together as if to say, “Oh hell no. F**k that guy.” As soon as Beale jumped in, Weingart pulled his posts, Worldcon called Weingart to apologize, then posted their public apology. It pretty much ended the public dispute right there.
Tuesday-Afternoon Quarterbacking: I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t part of the decision-making process. But as I understand it, Weingart notified the staff from the beginning that the other individual had set boundaries about not wanting to interact or work with him. Bringing Weingart on but restricting his interactions seems like a solution destined to cause problems. If this other individual was already working for the con, my hindsight solution would be to simply not bring Weingart on staff. Yeah, it might mean losing a good volunteer in Weingart, but it would have more effectively respected the other individual’s boundaries, and would have avoided the mess that eventually followed.
Yeah, But… Doesn’t that mean all it takes is for someone to say, “I’m uncomfortable with Person X,” and then Person X doesn’t get to volunteer or work for a convention? And isn’t that why people are so worried about…
Weaponized Harassment Policies: To me, this falls into the same category as false rape accusations. Is it possible for someone to make false accusations of harassment, or to use such policies to try to punish someone they don’t like? Anything’s possible, yes. Is there any evidence whatsoever to suggest it happens more than once in a blue moon? Not that I’m aware of. But, like false rape accusations, the idea that people are using harassment policies as weapons of personal vendetta comes up with ridiculous, even obscene frequency.
A well-written harassment policy doesn’t give any one individual that kind of vindictive power. The decisions made regarding Weingart involved not only the victim, but multiple senior staff at Worldcon. Those staff have admitted to mishandling the situation, yes. But that’s a far cry from some sort of scheme or conspiracy to “get” Weingart. (Also, that mishandling doesn’t necessarily mean their final decision to fire Weingart was wrong.)
Boundaries: I’m a strong believer in boundaries. In stating, respecting, and enforcing them. It can suck to be on the receiving end, to have someone tell you they want no more contact or interaction with you. Especially if they don’t give you a reason, or you don’t understand their reason. But once that boundary is stated, you’ve got to respect it. Even if you think it’s unfair. Even if you just want to understand. Even if you just want to apologize. Every reason to violate someone’s boundary is about you, not them. Your confusion. Your hurt. Your need to apologize.
I think this is where some of the conflict comes from in these situations (and this isn’t specifically about Weingart and Worldcon). If you feel like you have a really good reason to cross that boundary, and you’re not doing it with any harmful intention, why should you face consequences? Because it’s not about you. It’s not about your intentions. It’s about the person who set that boundary, and your choice to violate it.
ETA: To clarify, Worldcon did not have their harassment policy finalized or in place during all this. (The convention isn’t until August of 2017.) While much of the discussion and debate got into harassment policies, this particular incident was about a specific arrangement between Worldcon, Weingart, and the other volunteer.